New England Apple Pandowdy with Idareds

IdaReds at Red Apple Farm, Phillipston, Massachusetts. (Russell Steven Powell photo)
Idareds at Red Apple Farm, Phillipston, Massachusetts. (Russell Steven Powell)

AN EASY-TO-MAKE, satisfying-to-eat late-winter dessert is apple pandowdy. It’s really a deep-dish apple pie, with a thick apple filling and no bottom crust, but it is distinguished by its choice of sweetener — molasses, rather than sugar — and subtle blend of spices.

The origin of the word “pandowdy” is unknown, but it dates back to the early 1800s, according to Merriam-Webster. Some speculate that the name refers to the dish’s humble, plain origins (“pan” plus “dowdy”). It’s true that it doesn’t take long to make, especially if you keep the nutritious apple peels on, as we do. But that’s good, since apple pandowdy doesn’t last long, either. You can easily double this recipe and use a 9″ x 13″ baking dish.

Idared apple (Bar Lois Weeks photo)
Idared apple (Bar Lois Weeks)

A good apple for this time of year is Idared, because its flavor develops greater sweetness and complexity after a few months in cold storage. Idareds are featured in many cider blends at this time of year and are outstanding in pies and in cooking.

A late-season apple, Idared was developed by Leif Verner at the Idaho Agricultural Experiment Station in Moscow, Idaho, in 1942. It is a cross between Jonathan and Wagener apples.

We paired two Idareds with two Mutsus from Rogers Orchards in Southington, Connecticut, for this recipe adapted from Joy of Cooking. It was delicious!

Apple Pandowdy


1 c  flour

1/4 c whole wheat flour

1/2 t salt

1-1/2 T butter

3 T water


4 large Idared, Mutsu or other New England apples

1/2 c molasses (or substitute boiled cider or maple syrup)

2 T cornstarch

1/2 t cinnamon

1/4 t nutmeg

1/4 t salt

dash allspice

1 T butter

Preheat oven to 400°F. Make crust by mixing flours and salt, and then cutting in butter with a fork or pastry blender. Gradually add water and mix until dough forms. Roll out to about the thickness of pie dough, in the shape of an 8” baking dish. Refrigerate until ready to use.

In large bowl, mix together molasses, cornstarch, and spices. Core and cut apples into 1/4” slices. Add to bowl and stir with a wooden spoon until apples are coated.

Place apples in 8” baking dish. Dot with butter. Place dough over top, folding in edges. Bake for 30 minutes.

Reduce heat to 350°F. Remove pandowdy and cut crust into squares. Allow any juice to coat the crust by tipping the baking dish or pushing down on the crust with a spoon. (Depending on the type of apple you use, there may not be much juice at this point.)

Return baking dish to oven and bake for another 30 minutes, or until apples are soft. Press top with spoon to allow juices to cover crust. Let cool slightly before serving.

Serve with vanilla ice cream or frozen yogurt.